I was on Wacker with my buddies in the back and one of them yelled at somone he knew outside and dropped a beer that he had. There was a cop about three cars back who says he saw it and pulled us over. He made me park and actually go and get the can of beer and then he charghed me with littering. He charged my friend with littering and underage possession. I got a ticket and the cop called his parents. We both have clean records. My other friend says this is something the DA will drop if I do community service. Is that true? Do I need a lawyer?
I would suspect that would be true. I don't practice in Cook County (I work downstate), but you should definitely show up for court. Depending on your income, you may be assigned a public defender. Alternatively, you can hire an attorney who should be able to get the case either dismissed or, more likely, a “court supervision” which is a suspended sentence that dismisses the case once you have completed the work (public service)/paid the fines that you were ordered to do.
It depends on who is actually charging you. Adult cases and juvenile cases are resolved differently. Juveniles frequently go through a diversion program where they receive a station house adjustment in return for community service work or attending teen court. There is also a difference between whether you have been cited with an ordinance violation or a formal Class A Misdemeanor charge (Maximum fine $2,500, maximum time in jail 1 year. Same level as a DUI).
Also, unlawful possession of alcohol could potentially result in a license suspension. A lot of people try to be extra careful once they hear it could cause license problems.
I like to tell people that they should look at hiring a lawyer like hiring an electrician. If you know exactly what you're doing, you are probably okay with doing it yourself. However, if you don't know what you're doing, there is a good chance you're going to burn your house down.